Huntsman Post

Jon M. Huntsman Presents Distinguished Executive Alumnus Award

By Steve Eaton

A Utah State University graduate who said he once thought of entrepreneurs as “the crazy guys in the garage” was recognized by the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business with its highest honor recently.

Jon M. Huntsman presents Scott Walker with the Distinguished Executive Alumnus Award.

Photo by: Ron Adair

The school’s namesake, Jon M. Huntsman, personally presented the award to Scott Walker at the school’s Annual Awards Banquet, an event that drew more than 500 alumni, friends, and students.

Scott Walker owns EPIC Aviation, which is one of the largest aviation fuel distribution companies in the United States and Canada. He is also the founder and chairman of ProCore Laboratories, a manufacturing contract fill company.

“Scott is the quintessential entrepreneur in every way, with impeccable standards of ethics,” Mr. Huntsman said when he introduced him.

When Mr. Walker graduated from Utah State University in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in history, he admitted he did not expect to become an entrepreneur. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, so he went to get his MBA at the Thunderbird School of Global Management.

“The furthest thing from my mind was that I was going to be an entrepreneur,” he said, “because back in 1977, entrepreneurs were the crazy guys in the garage. Nobody wanted to be an entrepreneur.”

Mr. Walker worked in banking with mergers and acquisitions in the 1980s, but when the Texas economy went sour in 1991, he was out of work for two years. He said he lost all of his physical possessions except for a bed, chair, and big-screen television.

He said at that point he had only $300 in his bank account, and he didn’t know how he’d make his next rent payment. He said that was a turning point in his life, and he made three fundamental decisions:

  1. He would never compromise his principles, values, or integrity.
  2. He would never give up.
  3. If he recovered financially, he would “pay it back” by giving to others.

He teamed up with a friend and mentor, William Conley, and became the second employee and chief financial officer of DirectNet Corporation. The firm was a start-up company engaging in constructing points of presence for an internet backbone. In 1999, he and Mr. Conley joined BillMatrix, a company that pioneered direct billing. In 2006, he sold BillMatrix for $350 million.

In 2005, he established the Walker Center for Global Entrepreneurship at Thunderbird. In 2006, Mr. Walker was recognized with the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award for the Southwest Region. The same year he received the Pinnacle Award from the Sales and Marketing Executives International Academy of Achievement.

Scott Walker speaks at the Annual Awards Banquet

Photo by: Ron Adair

At the banquet, Mr. Walker talked of the lessons he’s learned over the years as an entrepreneur. He said entrepreneurs need to adapt quickly to change, discover things that other people aren’t seeing, and go after opportunities.

“The only real failure in life is the failure to try,” he said. “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not working hard enough.”

He said entrepreneurs need to challenge everything, take action, and sacrifice.

“Impossible things do not happen without someone making them happen,” he said. “No victory comes without a price. There are no shortcuts.”

In his opening remarks, Dean Douglas D. Anderson talked about the dramatic progress the Huntsman School of Business has made in recent years.

“The changes in the Huntsman School of Business are real,” he said. “They are noticeable, and they are significant. Yet we can, and we must improve. We must be driven by a relentless and restless desire to raise our standards. We must banish any sense of self-satisfaction. Rather, the new culture of diligence and excellence that has characterized our efforts during the last five years needs to become even more deeply embedded and 'hard wired' into every aspect of our school.”

Mr. Walker echoed that idea, saying, “The best isn’t good enough if better is expected. You’d better step up.”

The Utah State University Chorale, conducted by Michael Huff, performed during the banquet and seemed to demonstrate the essence of excellence, with high musical standards, bringing the audience to its feet in a standing ovation.

Before the award was presented, a video was shown about the impact the Huntsman Cancer Institute has had on students at the Huntsman School of Business. Then, Scot Marsden, the business senator from the Huntsman School of Business, Rob Lieske, from the Sigma Chi Fraternity, and Vardan Semerjyan, from the Armenian Association, presented a check to Mr. Huntsman for $16,000, money the groups had raised for the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Karen Huntsman spoke briefly about what drives Mr. Huntsman to support cancer research.

“I don’t think I can walk in there (the Huntsman Cancer Institute) without shedding a tear from realizing what it has meant to him,” she said. “Building businesses is fun; he loves business. But the true gift is putting back into the community, putting back into this school, and making a difference in the lives of people.”

Mr. Huntsman talked of cancer and his desire to “end this hideous disease.”

“Last year, we had 79,000 patients attend the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and this year we expect well over 100,000,” he said. “I wish we didn’t have any. I wish we could convert into the world’s greatest hotel and research center for other diseases.”

Mr. Huntsman said he appreciated the opportunity to visit Utah State University again.

“Once again, may I just say what an honor and privilege it is to be back at Utah State,” he said. “This is truly one of the great schools anywhere in the world, and when Karen and I return here, our hearts are filled with gratitude and thanksgiving, and we are deeply honored to be with you this evening and anytime we come on this wonderful campus.”